21 Feb 2018

State Services defends million-dollar makeover

2:41 pm on 21 February 2018

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has defended the office's million-dollar makeover as "value for money".

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes.

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Mr Hughes was quizzed by MPs at a select committee this morning about the refurbishment of the two floors the commission leases in the Reserve Bank building in Wellington.

SSC documents show the refit cost $960,000 with another $138,000 in project management and design fees.

That's more than $9000 for each of the commission's roughly 120 staff - about half of that cost was on furniture.

Mr Hughes told MPs the two floors had "reached the end of their life" and were due for a refresh.

"I'm very satisfied that we're delivering value for money."

SSC chief executive Debbie Power said the total cost of the refit worked out at roughly $600 per square metre, which was at the lower end for comparable work.

The government's benchmark for refits was $1300 to $1700 per square metre, she said.

Mr Hughes said the new workspace had done away with offices and cut the number of desks from 143 to 99 in favour of a "hot-desking" system.

"I don't have a desk. I don't have an office. I don't have a fancy lounge suite.

"You turn up in the morning and you decide where you need to work."

The Commission wanted to build a culture where people earned respect based on the difference they made for New Zealanders, he said.

"Not on the basis of some fancy title or a big office and a flash desk and high-backed chair."

Staff had really embraced the new approach and productivity had increased, he said.

He had not briefed State Services Minister Chris Hipkins on the expenditure, but would do so now given the media coverage.

Mr Hughes said SSC had to act as a role-model to the rest of the public service on the best way to operate.

"When public service chief executives come to visit me... I want them to see and experience what we expect of them and their agencies."

Ms Power told MPs that SSC needed "to be able to flex and be agile" in terms of its capacity.

"We're about to bring in a taskforce of about 10 people that need to work on a piece of work for about 18 months.

"In the past, we would not have been able to accommodate that in our building."